|Barry Manilow at Yum! Bucket|
To be honest, Barry Manilow isn't an artist I actively wished to see; of the 60s & 70s singers nearing the end of their careers, I would love to see Neil Diamond, David Bowie, or Neil Young, but for $25 a ticket I couldn't say no.
Most of my understanding of Manilow comes from pop culture quips, such as the family Guy episode, or the infamous KBIG 104.3 FM commercials telling listeners that the radio station was of quality because they didn't play Manilow, or the Australian government admitting that they played Manilow in high crime areas to deter gangs from congregating. Manilow himself is in on the big joke, playing himself on the Family Guy episode, changing the lyrics of Mandy to Quagmire, telling the Australian Government that they may be converting the gangs into Manilow fans, and at the Concert at Yum! he told the audience "We have a lot of music for you tonight that I think you are going to love, unless you were dragged here, in which case, you'll be miserable." Besides the bad luck of beginning his career of simple love songs in the early 70s, a time when the Rolling Stones were causing riots in the US and Nixon waged a war against John Lennon, I am not sure why the joke is there in the first place, and neither did the exuberant crowd at Yum! hanging on to Maniow's every syllable.
Manilow took to the stage at 8:30 for an hour and a half energetic romp through his 45 year career, with grace and humility. He walked out on stage and said "hi I'm Barry and these are my friends", waiving to the massive ensemble of live band, horn section, back up singers, and full chorus. The Yum! Center seemed completely packed full of Manilow fans, of literally all ages, waiving the glow sticks that Manilow supplied to each audience member as he did a whirlwind through his catalogue, from early hits such as Daybreak to his most recent show tunes, and a very fun Karaoke style sing-a-long of Can't Smile Without You complete with projected lyrics and a smiley face prompt for the audience.
Manilow, now in his 70s, is still showing his love for music exploration with his recent Album, My Dream Duets, a duet album with all the duets with musical greats that have already died such as Dusty Springfield, Whitney Huston, and Marilyn Monroe, via cutting edge digital editing software. Manilow said of the project, "Every singer my age does a duets album, and I thought Everyone I would love to sing with is dead so.." right before he sang Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart with a digitally reproduced Judy Garland, that brought the audience to the edge of their seats. After the Judy Garland tribute Manilow left the stage for a costume change while the large screens showed a 1971 interview of a young Manilow (the same one we picked for our preview here). The interview moves into a performance of Mandy, and in the middle of the video, real-life Manilow reappears onstage at the piano to duet with himself as a young man; it was truly unique and an amazing sight. One audience member told me later "The only duet Manilow did with someone who wasn't dead was himself, and it was brilliant."
Manilow shows his love for music and music history through his long catalogue, his recent Duets album (that debuted on Billboard Top 10, his 15th overall) and extensive charity work through the Manilow Fund. At every town he plays, including Louisville, He personally donates a piano to a school in need (for this show Valley High), and encourages people to bring instruments to his shows to donate. The Fund has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars across the US, especially during natural disasters including $300,000 for New Orleans after Katrina (Manilow himself donating $150,000 personally).
After learning of Manilow's love and commitment for music and people, as well as his exuberant stage show, I may have entered the Yum! Bucket on 6/5 a curious bystander, but I left a full-fledged Fanilow.